Monthly Archives: August 2021

Rumor: Player Tips $200 After Hitting $1.1 Million Jackpot at Golden Nugget

It’s a too-familiar story, but a million-dollar-plus jackpot winner at Golden Nugget is rumored to have left a $200 tip. Face, meet palm.

The player won $1.1 million on the Crazy 4 Poker progressive.

That’s not the rumor part.

Took a few years, but this sucker finally paid off.

Golden Nugget employees and others (who wished to remain anonymous) shared word of the painfully small $200 tip.

Cue the asshats chiming in with, “At least he left them something!”

To which we tend to respond, “Oy,” or something similarly clever.

One source said the player is a Las Vegas local, so they should “know how this works.”

We also hear the player’s wife won $5,000 on the winning hand (known as an “Envy” bet in Crazy 4 Poker) and tipped zero.

How Las Vegas works is many casino employees rely on tips for their livelihoods. Yes, it’s a
fundamentally flawed system, blah, blah, blah, but it’s the system we’ve got.

Fun fact: As a nod to its history, Golden Nugget uses a camera from 1946, the year the casino opened.

The subject of tipping, or not, on large jackpots has sparked some lively debates in social media.

We recently shared on Twitter that another winner, at Circa Las Vegas, tipped $200 on a $120,000-plus jackpot.

The responses to the Tweet were, how do we put this diplomatically, wide-ranging.

Many (sadly, most) of the people who responded to our Tweet rationalized the $200 tip, with many saying they’d have tipped nothing.

This inspired a listicle on our podcast, which we’re going to share again for posterity.

Top 10 Excuses for Not Tipping

1. “Employers don’t pay enough.”
2. “Tipping is optional.”
3. “They didn’t tip me when I was losing.”
4. “Tipping is a tool of oppression.”
5. “I have to pay taxes on my winnings.”
6. “These people already make a lot of money.”
7. “They didn’t do very much.”
8. “I didn’t have any cash.”
9. “We don’t tip in my country of origin.”
10. “I’m a clueless bonehead.”

In the defense of the clueless, it’s true large jackpot winners don’t get their winnings in cash. That’s the only excuse that even marginally works here, and it should be noted there’s no time limit on tipping. It’s perfectly acceptable to come back hours or even days later to tip the crew.

We’d love to hear that’s what happened with our $1.1 million winner! We’ll wait.

At this juncture, we usually get the question, “So, what’s the appropriate amount to tip?”

The answer is a trap, of course, as there’s no amount that’s going to satisfy everyone. It’s not a set amount, and while some suggest a percentage of the big win, that’s rather absurd as the gratuity could be outragious.

For example, just a 2% tip on $1.1 million would be $22,000. While casino staff wouldn’t get upset about such a tip, um, no.

While we’re an advocate for generous tipping, we don’t personally tip extravagantly. We aren’t
talking about ridiculous tipping here, we’re advocating reasonable tipping, and that’s highly

What’s a reasonable tip for a $1.1 million jackpot? We’ll put it this way: It’s more than $200.

You can’t spell “tip” without “tipsy.” That’s it, that’s the whole photo caption.

We also get this question a lot, “Who should I tip?”

Again, it’s up to you, but here’s our answer: Anyone who made your experience better. If it’s a
table game win, the list includes dealers, cocktail servers and the folks who bring your money. With slots, it’s servers and slot attendants.

Don’t feel obligated to stop there, however. Bathroom attendants, valets, security guards and
cage cashiers all contributed to your unforgettable night, feel free to lavish them with cash as you see fit.

And don’t forget about selfless bloggers whose words and poorly-focused photographs keep you connected to Las Vegas between visits. We wouldn’t accept a gratuity, of course, but that shouldn’t prevent you from offering.

Here’s the question that’s the foundation of all this: Why tip?

First, it’s customary. Las Vegas runs on tips, it’s woven into the culture. If you don’t believe in
tipping, or can’t afford to tip appropriately, you need not visit Las Vegas and its casinos. You should also probably avoid leaving your home, as tipping is a thing everywhere in America. Pretty straightforward.

Second, it’s karma. While it may not make logical sense to give away money when it’s “optional,”
tipping isn’t driven by logic, just as visiting a casino isn’t driven by logic. It’s about mojo, and what goes around comes around. Your gratuity is a statement of your appreciation and generosity, an investment in achieving your next big win.

Tipping is simply the right thing to do.

If nothing else, the subject of tipping is a wonderful conversation-starter. How someone views
tipping says a lot about them as a human being.

Here’s a useful analogy: Big tippers are dog people, poor tippers are cat people. (That sound you hear is us ducking.)

The ultimate goal is to be considered a “George,” casino slang for a big tipper.

Better yet, be a Benjamin. Inflation and such.

All Eyes On Cosmopolitan As Sale Rumors Heat Up (Again)

We’ve been down this road before, but chatter is heating up about a potential sale of Cosmopolitan.

It’s been a few years since the owner of Cosmopolitan, Blackstone Group, made it known the popular Strip resort was for sale.

Now, we’re told, there’s a buyer and an announcement of a sale could be made as soon as the next couple of weeks.

Chandelier Bar Cosmo

We’d buy Cosmo, but apparently you can’t buy a casino with a marker.

As with any rumor, take this one with a grain of salt, but we’ve heard this from multiple sources, some of whom are inside Cosmo. On staff. Not just standing inside Cosmo, although we enjoy doing that, personally.

If you don’t like rumors, we understand. Please find another, much less interesting, Web site to read.

The big question, should a sale be imminent, is who’s the buyer?

We’ve gotten tips, but nothing too solid. There’s been mention of MGM Resorts, long-rumored to have been circling Cosmopolitan.

Recently, MGM Resorts has been selling off its casinos, so some question whether they’d be looking to purchase one, even a resort as awesome as Cosmopolitan.

A dark hourse in the mix is Penn National Gaming. They recently sold off Tropicana, and the purchase of Cosmo would be a shocker.

Another contender, according to people in the know at Golden Nugget, is the buyer could be bajillionaire owner Tilman Fertitta. Fertitta is coming to town this week, and tongues are wagging internally he could be the one who snags Cosmo.

The Cosmopolitan

Rumors of a Cosmo sale have circulated for years. It’s complicated.

Fertitta has said publicly he’d be interested in buying “a casino or two” on the Las Vegas Strip. Adding to the intrigue is the fact he recently sold his Golden Nugget Online Gaming Inc. for $1.56 billion, so he’s got some cash laying around.

Anyone who buys Cosmopolitan is going to need deep pockets, as the asking price could be in the $4 billion range.

Should a sale come to pass, here’s a little-known fact: Cosmo President Bill McBeath has ownership points, and he stands to make as much as $100 million from a sale.

Casino sales are fluid, and timelines of deals being inked and announced can change, but don’t be surprised if we hear more about a Cosmopolitan sale in the very near future.

Here’s hoping the new owners understand the importance of continuing to provide free cookies in high limit. Yes, that’s a thing again.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 130: Superfrico, Banachek, Pleasure Orb and More

In this installment of the Vital Vegas Podcast, we’re so far up into the business of Las Vegas, we
may need the Jaws of Life to extricate ourself.

Vital Vegas Podcast

It’s like a spoken word festival, but without all the yawning.

For starters, we chat with Banachek, star of a new mentalism show at The Strat.

Fair warning: Just reading Banachek’s name, he knows your phone number, date of birth and bra size.

Banachek is a psychic who doesn’t believe in psychics. Our kind of people.

Next up, it’s an in-depth interview with Ross Mollison, the demented genius behind “Absinthe,”
“Atomic Saloon,” “Opium” and a new restaurant at Cosmopolitan, Superfrico.

Mollison wastes no time letting is know we need to stop referring to this new dining offering as a “supper club,” and provides insights into what guests can expect at this replacement for the
former Rose.Rabbit.Lie.

Ross Mollison

It’s Ross Mollison’s world, we just live in it.

Of course, we’re your boots on the ground for all things Vegas, and share a cavalcade of exclusive news, including the name of a new Cirque show being developed for New York-New York (“Mad Apple”), the tentative opening timeline for Palms (early 2021), what’s new at Fontainebleau (contractor named), how much Thunder From Under dancers make ($150 a show) and how many times the Shelby Mustang has been won at Four Queens (three).

Parentheticals are such jerks, what with the surprise-ruining.

Palms San Manuel

Expect the sale to close in November 2021.

As usual, there’s a metric ass-ton of Las Vegas news, including items about the Vegas Knight Hawks, the Luxor buffet reopening (Sep. 1), a $1.1 million progressive win at Golden Nugget, the end of our reign as the town with the tallest observation wheel, events requiring vaccinations to attend, the Tix4Tonight bankruptcy, Lada Gaga’s return and other goodies to keep you in the Vegas loop. Which is actually a thing now, Elonwise.

The “Listicle of the Week” is “12 Things You Didn’t Know About the MSG Sphere,” the new entertainment venue we loving refer to as the Pleasure Orb.

MSG Sphere

You knew we’d get around to a Sphere listicle.

We drink. We ramble. We pontificate. We mainsplain. Or as we like to call it, Monday.

It’s all the Vegas you need to escape the banality of everyday life and avoid spending time with your in-laws.

Stuff some Vegas in your earholes!

The Strat Adds Mind-Blowing “Banachek’s Mind Games” to Strong Showroom Line-Up

A mind-blowing mind reading show, “Banachek’s Mind Games,” has opened at The Strat.

Simply put, the show is a non-stop cavalcade of “How in the hell did he do that?” Although, at the performance we attended, most people were so dumbfounded, they used the f-word, not the h-word. It’s just that unbelievable.

Within the first three minutes of this show, magician and mentalist Banachek (real name Steve
Shaw) correctly identifies the playing cards four audience members are thinking of, and it gets gets wilder and more incredible from there.

Do not look into his eyes too long or Banachek will know your bank account numbers.

Our mouth was agog and never ungogged during the entire 70-minute show. The mind-reading illusions were utterly baffling, and we claim to know everything.

Perhaps our favorite part of the Banacheck show is when the performer reminds audience psychic powers don’t actually exist.

He should know. He’s the director of the James Randi Foundation, an organization that for many years offered a million-dollar prize to anyone who can prove the existence of supernatural or psychic abilities. Nobody’s ever gotten the $1 million. Because, you know, psychic abilities don’t exist. It’s pretty straightforward.

It didn’t take much mentalist ability for Banachek to predict our favorite numbers, because we are 14.

While he does extraordinary and seemingly inexplicable things onstage, he’s also known for exposing frauds who use fake psychic powers (such as those claming to speak to the dead) to prey on vulnerable victims.

Here’s more about Banachek.

At the media night show we attended, Banachek seemed genuinely taken off guard as he was presented the “Mentalist of the Year” award from the International Magicians Society. Surprising a mentalist is an impressive feat.

The fully vaccinated “Fantasy” dancers from Luxor attended Banacheck’s performance to show support. Las Vegas really needs a showgirl mask exemption.

Banachek joins what is turning out to be one of the best collections of value-oriented shows in any Las Vegas showroom. Tickets for this and other Strat shows start at around $30, and most are family-friendly.

One of our favorite shows in Las Vegas, the must-see “Xavier Mortimer: The Dream Maker,” has found a new home in the Strat’s theater.

Xavier Mortimer's Magical Dream

You definitely need to hang out with Xavier Mortimer.

Another new production, “iLuminate,” just opened as well.

We’ve heard this show is lit.

Rocker Sammy Hagar will have a residency at The Strat starting October 29, 2021.

Sammy Hagar

Sammy Hagar’s going to shake the Strat, in a purely metaphorical context, because we have a heights thing.

Also at Strat, the well-reviewed “MJ Live,” a Michael Jackson tribute show.

We didn’t have the guts to ask if “MJ Live” is kid-friendly, so you’re on your own.

Strat is also host to the L.A. Comedy Club, in the resort’s Dragon Room, wherever that might actually be.

Here’s more about all the entertainment at The Strat, previously called The Stratosphere. Please try and keep up.

The Strat made a great decision to partner with SPI Entertainment to operate its showroom, as the company has a great eye for talent and definitely understands the appeal of low price points for shows.

Banachek’s show isn’t flashy, but it’s a solid entertainment value and we can promise you’ll see things you’ve never seen before. No plants. No secret cameras. No hidden earpieces. Just good, old-fashioned “WTF did I just see?”

Three Signs Former Fontainebleau Is Making Progress

There’s new life at the long-abandoned Fontainebleau (and The Drew) site.

The hotel has a new name, JW Marriott Las Vegas Blvd., and we’ve got some juicy evidence this new resort is actually going to happen.

Fontainebleau wrap

Many have tried, none have succeeded, until now. We said, nervously.

This project has been stalled since 2009 (Fontainebleau was 70 percent finished when
construction was halted), but was recently purchased by Koch Real Estate Investments
(translation: seriously deep pockets) and the Fontainebleau Development Company.

The former owner, Steve Witkoff, who planned to call the hotel The Drew, was never able to pull
together the needed financing.

As we were the first to report, JW Marriott LVB is scheduled to open in Oct. 2023.

While skeptism remains high, we’ve seen some solid signs in recent weeks JW Marriott Las Vegas Blvd. is looking more and more like a thing.

1. General Contractor Named

While it hasn’t been officially announced, we’ve been told W.A. Richardson Builders, general
contractor for Resorts World, has been awarded the JW Marriott Las Vegas Blvd. construction manager job. This marks a big step in JW Marriott LVB moving forward. Richardson has some serious construction cred in Las Vegas, including being general contractor for Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, The Linq, Cromwell and others.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas

We love when cautionary tales have happy endings.

2. Fugly Wrap Removed

While it doesn’t exactly qualify as a beehive of activity, the million-dollar wrap at the former Fontainebleau (installed when the building was owned by Carl Icahn) has been removed. This means the wrap is being replaced, or it’s not needed during construction. Clark County officials instructed the owners to clean the place up, so it’s possible another wrap will be installed until construction ramps up fully. Still, it’s not nothing, and in the case of the doomed Fontainebleau, we’ll take “not nothing” any day of the week.

Big thanks to the Twitter follower who passed along this pic.

3. Power Line Being Installed

An eagle-eyed reader spotted a “Fountain Blue” sign near the JW Marriott LVB site (by Turnberry Towers at Karen Ave. and Joe Brown Drive), so we chatted with the company displayed on the sign. We confirmed it’s a constractor installing an NV Energy power line for JW Marriott LVB. This is big news, infrastructurewise, and it’s a strong indication the project is moving forward.

That’s how it was pronounced, by the way, “fountain blue.”

In addition to these delicious tidbits, there has also been a flurry of new and renewed building permits for the JW Marriott LVB project, clinching our belief we’re going to see the place become a reality, against all odds.

The hope for JW Marriott LVB is conventions will be back to full strength by its 2023 opening, and the hotel’s location will position it perfectly to take advantage of increased investment in drawing more and larger conventions to Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Convention Center, just a lanyard’s throw away from the new JW Marriott LVB, recently completed a $989 million expansion, including a new underground shuttle system from Elon Musk.

JW Marriott Las Vegas Blvd. will have more than 3,700 rooms and 500,000-square-feet of meeting space.

The abandoned Fontainebleau project has been an eyesore for years, and a thorn in the side of
local officials, so it’s refreshing to see tangible evidence the JW Marriott Las Vegas Blvd. project is moving forward and could finally come to fruition.

Overlook Lounge Opens at Wynn, Q&A With Resort Mixologist

Wynn Las Vegas recently opened Overlook Lounge, a major redesign and rebrand of the former Parasol Up lounge.

The official name of the new bar is Overlook Lounge, Spirits and Aperitifs, but our shorthand for it is “glorious.”

Overlook lounge Wynn

So much eye candy, you’re likely to get cavities.

Don’t freak out parasol fans, as the parasols and Parasol Down are still around.

Umbrella aficionado? You’re covered.

The interior design of Overlook is courtesy of Todd-Avery Lenahan, President & Chief Creative
Officer of Wynn Design & Development.

Lenahan is firing on all swatches with this seductive new offering, and the lounge is a cavalcade of jewel tones, crystal chandeliers, period furnishings and beautiful art.

Our home looks exactly like this except for the everything.

Overlook has the kind of opulence guests have come to expect at Wynn, setting the stage for an
outstanding cocktail program.

Enter resort mixologist Mariena Mercer Boarini.

That’s not a bar spoon, it’s a magic wand.

We should say up front you already know Mercer Boarini, even if you may not recognize her name.

She’s the inventor of the Verbena cocktail at Cosmopolitan. If you don’t know the Verbena, you’re doing Las Vegas wrong.

Now, Mercer Boarini oversees the cocktail program at more than 30 bars and restaurants at Wynn and Encore.

We loved our drinks and we hate everything.

We snagged an interview with Mercer Boarini, which we’ll share in an upcoming podcast episode. You can listen to the full interview on the YouTubes, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Here are some poorly-articulated questions and very patient answers from our chat with cocktail imagineer and possibly mad scientist Mariena Mercer Boarini.

Vital Vegas: You’re the mixologist for Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. That seems an overwhelming task.

Mariena: We have 31 different bars and restaurants that I get to design for, and it just continually keeps me engaged and excited and telling kind of fresh new stories through my cocktails with all of the different outlets.

VV: So, tell everybody what’s going on at this new lounge.

Mariena: Overlook is an exciting new lounge that we’ve opened, it takes the place of Parasol Up
which has been an amazing cocktail haven for Las Vegas. I’ve been here for many years working and so I remember when it opened and almost being intimidated by the cocktail haven that it was. So, it was a really cool moment in my career to be able to to do something in that space. We worked with our Chief Creative Officer of Wynn Design & Development, Todd-Avery Lenahan. You’ll hear me talk about him a lot, and I’m the hugest fan of everything he does.

VV: Also, referred to as a “design god” in Wynn fandom circles.

Mariena: His design is so inspiring. How it’s worked with the two projects we’ve done together,
with one more coming up, is I need to see the space or get the design deck back before I start telling my story because I want to tell his story, the story he’s telling with the design. It’s Overlook Lounge, Spirits and Aperitifs, so I already thought, wow, to be able to tell the story, the
romance of aperitivo hour, is really special because nobody’s doing that in Las Vegas on that level. I’m a very analog person, so I write a lot of Post-it notes everywhere, but I only had one
Post-it note out, it said, “Iconic.” That was the only thing I could think about when I saw his

We see faces in everything. You?

VV: Can you talk about the cocktail menu?

Mariena: You’ll see that all of the cocktails have one-word names and they’re kind of oblique references to different people or places in fashion, film, history, mythology. They tell that kind of story through the spritzes, because I thought to myself, how does something become iconic? And I just started writing words down like “Madonna,” people or places that usually just have one word that you can refer to them as, or recognize them, are iconic. The cocktails have names like the Evangelista, the Coco, Aurora, named after the goddess of sunrise. Every spritz has a finishing perfume.

Insert “putting on the spritz” joke here.

VV: Can you explain what that is?

Mariena: I designed a line of aperitif parfums, edible ones. I like to say if maybe Picasso had his
blue period, I’m in my aromatic period. Everything is about aromas. Last year, I was really into flavor. I was reading about gastrophysics and gastronomy and trying to figure out how the brain is perceiving flavor and the palette and all those things. This year, it’s all about aromas for me. So, you have millions of olfactory receptors, but you have thousands of taste buds, so you do taste predominantly with your nose. Eighty percent of flavor comes through aromas, so I thought this would be a really fun concept to be able to kind of elevate, manipulate, play with different flavors and aromas through aromatics. Also, it’s a really fun way to play with memory and nostalgia because the shortest jump to your brain is through the olfactory bulb, so it’s the easiest Way to access nostalgia and great memories and things like that.

These shot glasses are huge.

Mariena: So, I wanted to do four iconic locations and encapsulate those in an aroma so each one has their own beautiful vintage atomizer so you can atomize the aroma on top of the cocktail. There is Milan, which I closed my eyes and thought “What does Fashion Week smell like?” “What does a supermodel smell like?”

VV: O.K., that could go badly.

Mariena: My brain can be a little odd sometimes. Some fancy perfumes and hair products and maybe you know like a cheeky cigarette here or there, so there’s even a little bit of layer of smoke to it. And jasmine and some floral elements. I won a global mixology competition in Morocco, in Marrakesh, so when I close my eyes and I think of that memory I smell Bombay Chai, Madagascar vanilla and apricot, so that’s the Morocco. I did the Amalfi coast in Italy, and Paris. When you spray this mist, this aroma, on top of the cocktail, it really gives it a sense of place and a really unique experience for guests.

VV: The Hudson was delicious, but we have to talk about the Cleo. This is going to be the destination cocktail for the Overlook lounge.

The Cleo is the newest must-try cocktail in Las Vegas. Bonus: Electric Dust.

Mariena: It’s such a fun cocktail, right? This is a dragon fruit margarita. It’s not an overly sweet
margarita, I stick to what’s called a “Tommy’s margarita” style, so it tends to be a lot more dry, but very spirited with the agave, so it’s usually two full ounces of tequila, and then it has this beautiful dried dragon fruit chip on top, dusted with something called Electric Dust. Electric Dust is something I’ve done independent of the Wynn. It was my pandemic passion project. I created the cocktail program at The Cosmopolitan, and I was there for 10 years, and I created a cocktail called the Verbena, heralded as the most popular specialty cocktail in Las Vegas.

Meet your new BFF, Elias.

VV: Um, you’re being modest, the world.

Mariena: So, basically, people love that flower so much, the “buzz button,” the garnish on the Verbena cocktail. Everywhere I go, if I ever casually say I worked at the Cosmopolitan, it was always, “Have you ever had that flower drink?” I loved that it meant so much to so many people. So, during the pandemic, I just had a lot of creative energy, so I took that flower, and I’ve always loved chemistry, alchemy, the science of life, so I started experimenting with it. I found a process to make it shelf stable, but retaining all of the effects of the buzz button. The buzz button is a natural alkaloid, it speeds up your salivary glands and turns you into a super taster. It’s a natural phenomena where some people have more densely-packed taste buds on their tongue, so it enables them to taste at a higher level. This buzz button, when you consume it, your tongue starts tingling and basically what it’s doing is activating and awakening all your salivary glands to help you taste at a higher intensity, so it’s a journey of flavor.

We can speak from experience, Electric Dust is a journey of flavor, and we aren’t surprised Mercer Boarini filed for a patent.

There’s a lot more cocktail talk in our interview with Wynn mixologist (along with more photos of the Overlook lounge and its cocktails), so give it a listen.

Wynn Las Vegas has delivered on all its promises with Overlook. It’s rare when a resort overhauls something as popular as Parasol Up, and it was worth the investment.

Visiting Overlook lounge is elegant without being pretentious, and the cocktail menu is simple,
accessible and full of twists.

Drop by Overlook at Wynn Las Vegas, and definitely try the Cleo to see what all the buzz is about.